Cowboys urged to sign ex-Patriots pro pitcher in free agency


Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones enters the field before an NFL game.

The Dallas Cowboys are just days away from their season opener, but there are still plenty of names in free agency who could elevate the team.

Owner Jerry Jones and his receiving staff took steps to improve the team late in the offseason, with the most notable names being linebacker Anthony Barr and offensive tackle Jason Peters joining the Cowboys.

However, the two areas that Barr and Peters join could still use more help, especially at linebacker. A trade for a decent LB wouldn’t be of much value at the start of the season, but luckily Dallas has an array of options in free agency.

In terms of big names, former New England Patriots star Dont’a Hightower. Hightower is without a team heading into Week 1 weekend, playing his nine NFL seasons with the Patriots.

Retirement is a possibility for the 31-year-old but seems unlikely this close to the season. Hightower has been earning high salaries for half a decade, but a cheap contract with Dallas would make sense for the team and put Hightower on a competitive team for the 2022 season.

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Hightower is building a career with the Patriots

Coming out of Alabama, Hightower was one of Crimson Tide’s most prominent players. In his senior year at Tuscaloosa, the linebacker racked up 11 tackles for loss and four sacks, with one interception to boot, according to Sports Reference.

After joining the Patriots in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, he was an immediate starter in New England. Hightower made an impact straight away with four sacks and a fumble recovery for a touchdown, by PFR.

From that point on, Hightower’s career was a model of consistency. The 32-year-old linebacker was not named to the Pro Bowl until his fifth season in the league and earned his second Pro Bowl honor in 2019.

353 solo tackles and 27 sacks in nine seasons later, Hightower played two contracts with New England and was paid well in the process. There’s no doubt the linebacker knows how to do it at the NFL level, but a spot on the Cowboys’ roster is entirely dependent on price.

Could the Cowboys meet Linebacker over contract terms?

Spotrac shows that Hightower’s last contract in the NFL was significant: Prior to the 2017 season, the Patriots signed the linebacker to a four-year, $35.5 million deal. In his final season with New England, Hightower was worth a cap of $12.4 million.

For an aging linebacker, that’s a steep price. Also, Dallas wouldn’t start Hightower. With Barr joining Micah Parsons, Leighton Vander Esch and Jabril Cox, Hightower or any linebacker addition would likely be as a specialist.

Having Hightower to handle an opponent’s run game would be nice, but not if it’s going to be expensive. Barr joined the team on a $2 million deal, and Hightower is expected to accept a deal close to that (and preferably less from Dallas’ perspective.)

Additional veteran experience and a legit defender would go a long way. Parsons can line up where needed, and there is a contingency plan for injury-prone Vander Esch, or if Barr gets hurt.

Christy J. Olson